Monday, December 14, 2009

Notes: "Al Manakh 2" debate 12/12/09

I went to the "Al Manakh 2" debate at Studio-X last Saturday. Al Manakh is a collaborative effort initiated by Volume, Archis, OMA/AMO, Pink Tank and NAi, to monitor, reveal and forecast new urban developments in the Gulf region. Though I frequently heard the names Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the last few years, I don't really know much about the Gulf. So this post is intended to be just a summery of notes instead of trying to put in much speculations.

Mark Wigley: Dubai is a symbol, both of the boom and the crisis.

Alex Deffner: Planning is about improving the image and marketing is about promoting the image. The two seem to be intertwining.

Alex Deffner: People's first reaction to the crisis is to cut leisure and transportation. You don't see as many people at the JFK these days...

Waleed Hazbun: The iconic images of Dubai are blurring the present and the future, the real and the imagine. The city presents itself as a promise. The present identity is based on the future.

Waleed Hazbun: Five alternative futures of Dubai:
1. A spectacle of decline;
2. A monument to the moment of early 21st century (a dated image of when architects could do whatever they wanted);
3. Nationalist retrenchment (reclaiming identity through local heritage);
4. A boutique "neo-liberal" city for the global elite;
5. A creative pluralist cosmopolitan community and sense of place.

Jeffrey Inaba: The western model of desert is the site of experimentation (from Taliesin West to the Bucky dome to the NASA Mars project). Its remoteness gives a sense of freedom, like you would choose to experiment in your garage but not in the living room. In the Gulf region, the desert is not externalized from living. Rather, it's the very site of inhabitation. The notion of "responsibility" becomes more important.

Jeffrey Inaba: There's a paradox of increasing desertification and increasing urbanization.

Daniel van der Velden: Dubai is in a way branding Abu Dhabi. With the image of Dubai, Abu Dhabi doesn't really need to do anything.

Daniel van der Velden: In the future, there would be no central branding figure. The citizens themselves become the "brand ambassadors." What the Obama campaign showed us is the power of the mobilized crowd. The center is relatively a void.

Mark Wigley: Diplomats are not only familiar with their own side. They can also easily represent the other sides since they have to understand what the other sides are thinking. So in a way, diplomats have no identities.

Mark Wigley: A city is like the computer - the value lies in what it can do, and the entire network behind it.

Alex Deffner: There are intentional marketing and the unintentional one. The German town of Bohmte was getting rid of all the street signs and traffic regulations. All of a sudden it became famous.

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